By Shona McIntosh, WP Projects Officer
One of the projects I’m most excited about this year is our Primary School Partnership scheme. This is a revamped version of the tutoring we’ve offered to primary schools for several years now. We’ll continue to send students into local classes to help raise attainment, but we’re now going to be focussing on Year 6 Maths classes, and I have added in an HE-awareness session in the classroom, and a campus visit for the whole class after the dreaded SATs. I have even promised to write a lecture on Harry Potter, in the style of the kind of lectures I used to give about Shakespeare, to give the pupils a taste of student life!
I’ve been going out to visit school teachers to discuss this programme, and it is a real joy going into primary schools. Firstly, because you get to sit on tiny chairs and feel like a giant (I’m 5 foot 2, so opportunities for me to feel tall are few and far between)! And secondly because it is lovely to see how passionate the teachers are about educating their pupils and to see the classrooms covered in the evidence of the children’s work and achievements. These are schools that are working in inner-city boroughs in very deprived areas – on average, the schools we are working with have at least 50% of their children on Free School Meals. But the teachers aren’t letting that get in the way of providing the most inspiring and supportive experience they can for their children.
One problem a couple of schools have mentioned is that many of their female pupils struggle with maths more than their male peers. This has surprised me because a lot of conversation around WP recently has focussed on the problem of boys’ lower attainment and progression. The tutoring shceme can help though, as we can place female ambassadors in the classroom to show the girls not only that maths is fun at school,but even that they might go on to study a maths-based subject later in their education. It just goes to show that national trends can be bucked by local particularities. In other words, listen to your community when you’re designing outreach activities!
I have immensely enjoyed my visits to local schools in Haringey, Tower Hamlets, Islington, and Camden. The teachers have been unfailingly supportive and energised about the idea of using undergraduates to help in the classroom. I think it’s going to be a great learning experience for our student tutors, and I hope to get a blog or two from them once they get into the classrooms at the end of January! Watch this space!